Editorial | The Golding report and the CARICOM Summit
In a little more than a fortnight, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders gather in Jamaica for their annual summit at which Prime Minister Andrew Holness, in keeping with the community's system of rotation, will be installed as the group's chairman for the next year.
The chairmanship represents an opportunity, if Mr Holness grasps it, for the Jamaican PM to significantly influence, if not lead, the Caribbean's, or a crucial block thereof, response to a range of events that appear to be the beginning of an emerging new global architecture.
That capacity, unfortunately, may well be constrained. For not only does Jamaica's foreign policy appear to be in a state of flux, there is no certainty on where the Jamaican Government stands on CARICOM and, therefore, what moral authority Mr Holness is capable of exerting in leading the community in one direction or the other.
Our assumption is based on the anecdotal evidence thus far that Mr Holness, personally, is in favour of the community and the regional integration that it represents. At least to a point.
Unlike his Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) predecessors who have tended to be wary of CARICOM, fearing that it provides an opening that could lead a return to the West Indies Federation whose demise Jamaica initiated more than a half century ago, Mr Holness has insisted that Jamaica is in the community, fighting for its share of trading and other business opportunities in the regional single market. Blaming the cheating by regional partners, especially Trinidad and Tobago, for Jamaica's poor trading record in the community has largely receded.
The CARICOM Summit will be two years since Mr Holness assigned his predecessor as JLP leader and former Prime Minister Bruce Golding to lead a review of CARICOM and what ought to be Jamaica's place in the group. Mr Golding presented his task force's report nearly 14 months ago and it has, so far, sat on the table of Parliament for five months after floating around the Cabinet and its sub-committees for the better part of a year.
Yet, it hasn't been debated by Parliament or been subject to the scrutiny of any of the legislature's committees. Neither, insofar as this newspaper is aware, has the Government engaged any interest or civil society groups on the report's findings or recommendations.
There are important matters for Jamaicans to discuss.
For instance, while Mr Golding asserts CARICOM's relevance in today's global environment, he doesn't endorse Jamaica's membership without conditions. Given what he sees of the community's economic underachievement and implementation deficits, Mr Golding called for time-bound reforms, including ending carve-outs from CARICOM so-called less developed countries, advancing to a genuine single economy, and the implementation of new governance arrangements. Failure to achieve these changes in five years should lead to 'Jexit' - Jamaica's withdrawal and another kind of partnership from the Community.
At CARICOM's Inter-sessional Meeting in February, Mr Holness supposedly "engaged" his counterparts on the Golding report. We, however, remain at a loss on where the Jamaican Government stands on the report.
In the circumstance, and given the limited time in which to engage any reasonable domestic discussion on the matters it raises, it is hardly feasible for it to be placed on the table of CARICOM.
Indeed, this absence of domestic debate is exacerbated by the objections to some of the proposals by St Vincent's Ralph Gonsalves. Perhaps it will be shelved for now, while Mr Holness gets the horse and cart in the right sequence.